12-20-18 Letters and Commentary

Christmas Eve A big red sleigh Setting out in the snow, Nine anxious Reindeers Are ready to go.

They stop on the rooftops While all are asleep, Santa is quiet Not making a peep.

When all things delivered Then home they will go, With a big Santa smile And his face all a glow.

What Santa will shout As they fly out of sight, Merry Christmas to all And to all a good night!!

Judi Hauch, Watervliet

Community gem Dear Editor, For 15 years, the Coloma Sons of American Legion (SAL) Post #362 has distributed food, toys, gifts and toiletries to numerous Christmas families. During the year we receive family’s names thru strict criteria of need. We choose families with some alternative families in hope we have enough donations. We accept most items after Thanksgiving from members of SAL, Legion Auxiliary and Legion members, we are also lucky enough to have some business donations. These donated items are packed for delivery before Christmas. We then distribute them on Christmas Eve or the day before. This year we were lucky enough to distribute to eight families. MERRY CHRISTMAS George Rose

Local Marines make Christmas brighter Dear Editor, On November 10, Marines old and young gathered at T’s Tap in Coloma to celebrate the birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps. Leigh Schultz, event organizer, said over $400 was raised for the Toys for Tots program after a night filled with food, tradition and fellowship. T’s Marines along with the Coloma American Legion and a generous donation from the South Haven Meijer store were able to raise additional funds to purchase well over $500 worth of toys at the Meijer store. The toys were dropped off at locations in southwest Michigan to be wrapped and delivered to brighten the lives of needy local children for the holidays. Pete Petruk American Legion Post #362

Hospital auxiliary  seeking scholarship applicants Dear Editor, The Lakeland Hospital, Watervliet Auxiliary is planning to award scholarships to two graduating seniors. Two $2,000 scholarships will be awarded. Interested students must be a resident of Coloma, Watervliet or Hartford school districts. Students must be planning to study in any medical field. Students must carry a 3.00 or better on a 4.00 scale. Students must be planning on attending a 2 or 4-year institution of higher education. For application packet, please contact Lakeland Hospital, Watervliet Auxiliary at 269-463-2292 or the high school counselors. Deadline for submitting completed application and letters of recommendation is March 15, 2019. Thank you, Marie Sineni Lakeland Hospital, Watervliet Auxiliary

Farewell from Supt. Kevin Schooley Dear students and families of Watervliet Schools, I am writing to you today to let you know that I will be leaving Watervliet and will no longer serve as your superintendent of schools. My last official day with the district will be January 1, 2019. I truly feel blessed to have been given the opportunity to work with the students and families of Watervliet for the past 21 years. I have had a ringside seat to the growth and success of our school system. Most importantly, I have had the chance to participate in the growth and development of your children and have watched them grow from small children into young adults ready to take on the world. As a matter of fact, as I walk through South School, some of my former elementary students from North School are now dropping off their own children and I can’t help but smile and hope I had a small part in their success or feelings about WPS. I do not mean to imply that everything has been perfect, it hasn’t, but I hope that you realize that my intentions and actions have always been about the health and well-being of the kids in my care first. You have a special place here and I hope you continue to cherish your community and school. When school resumes in January, you will have an interim superintendent in place. Dr. John Jarpe will be at the helm and he is a capable and caring leader. I have had the opportunity to work with Dr. Jarpe for over 10 years and he has my complete confidence in carrying on the task of providing a quality education to the students at Watervliet Public Schools. Again, I want to thank you for allowing me to be a part of your community and the education of your child. This experience has been a gift and I wish you all the very best. Take care, Kevin Schooley

MERRY CHRISTMAS… I hope this Christmas Holiday finds you among your loved ones and that the peace of the season is with you always.

THE HOLIDAYS IS THE BEST TIME TO SHOP AT HOME…  Anne and I stopped in at the Watervliet Hardware on Friday and were welcomed by owners Bryan and Jan Conrad.  They were serving up sandwiches and treats to customers in appreciation for their business and friendship.

On the way back to our car we stopped in at the Flower Basket, owner Krista Krogel greeted us at the door, thanked us for coming in and suggested a couple gift ideas for us.

That was just one lunch hour on one day… there isn’t a day that merchants in your hometown don’t greet you and serve you.

This holiday is a great time for you to visit your hometown merchants. You will be pleasantly surprised at all they have to offer, and are willing to do for you.

Thursday evening we were at the Coloma Watervliet Chamber of Commerce business appreciation night as 74 members saluted six of their members. You can see the story on the front page.  The story here is the Chamber has 150 or so member businesses, all located here in the Coloma Watervliet Area, and all dedicated to serving you!

Stop in to as many local merchants as you can and wish them a very Merry Christmas.

CHRISTMAS COLUMN TRADITION CONTINUED…

This is the 42nd year I have published my Christmas column as being a part of the Bayer Christmas tradition.

Every year I seriously consider not printing it. When I express doubt as to running it again, I get responses from folks asking that I keep the tradition going. From family members and friends alike, all expressed that their own holiday memories were stimulated by my story.

This is close to the original written in 1976, as my first Christmas column as assistant editor of the Capac Journal. As it happens, it is also the only Christmas column I have ever written. With a few annual changes, this column just works for me.  Now having grandkids Willy, Karli, Ben, Elaina, Zoya, Polly, Evie, Eli, and Kendall to share those memories and to create new ones is something truly wonderful.

Just 10 months ago our great-grandson Jaxon Lee Loshbough joined the clan. Along with his brother William Harold Loshbough V they are the newest babies celebrating with us this Christmas. The Karl Bayer family was also overjoyed to welcome Brook (Rose)  to the family this past spring when she married Grandson Willy Loshbough.

After all, what is Christmas without being surrounded by children, family, and friends?

My own warm, bittersweet memories of Mom and Dad; my father-in-law, Nubbs; dearest mother-in-law Elaine; and the kids and family get-togethers on Christmas morning blend with those that were in my heart when I wrote that column 40 years ago as a young father looking forward to Christmas with my kids and thinking of my Christmases past as a youngster.

From that burgeoning Chris and Margaret Bayer family of 13 children, now there are more than 270 happy souls; husbands and wives, sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, grandkids and great-grandkids. Our happiness in welcoming new babies and spouses to the family is mingled with the sorrow of missing those who are gone. The painful remembering of their passing, hopefully, will be lessened by the recollection of the joy, love, and good times they always shared with us. R.I.P. Mom and Dad, Nubbs and Elaine, Marian, Doug, Joan, Joe, Greg, John, Steve, Rosie, Bob, and Silky (Dennis).

I hope you get some enjoyment from this column and that it evokes your own warm memories of those with whom you have shared this family and holy day… Christmas.

OUR FAMILY CHRISTMAS

This is the most exciting time of the year for the little Bayer “cubs.” “How many days to Christmas?” they ask. “Is it Christmas yet? Is Christmas Jesus’ birthday? Is it today after church?”

My own favorite childhood memories of that time are the deliciously long-drawn-out hours and minutes leading up to Christmas. Then there’s that greatest time of all, Christmas morning.

As one of 13 children occupying a five-bedroom house, my childhood memories are jumbled together with the sights and sounds of living with a large family. Those memories have become a composite of many experiences; if not happening directly to me, they’ve become a part of me in the retelling of the stories.

On Christmas Eve, there were my older sisters squabbling over use of the bathroom before Midnight Mass; my older brothers would be mysteriously busy in the basement, assembling and making toys like elves. Mom and Dad’s bedroom door was kept locked; from every nook and cranny of that room peaked bits of wrapping paper and ribbon; and one never ventured to look in the trunk of Dad’s car, for we knew that’s where many of the gifts were kept.

In our house, most family gatherings centered in the huge kitchen; that’s where Mom was, always at the stove or sink.

Christmas was the exception…   that’s the day the living room was the scene of all the action. That’s where we all collected and where all of our memories were created.

The woodwork about the mantle over the fireplace and the bookshelves alongside it were festooned with greeting cards of prayers and best wishes. On the mantle itself was the nativity set laid out with plaster-of-Paris figurines, a straw manger, and a three-legged cow; somewhere off to the left, hidden behind a line of graduation pictures, the Magi waited for the cue to appear on January 6, the Epiphany.

In the corner of the long living room, up near the front windows, stood the tree… oh, that tree… Dad would go out on a Saturday morning, perilously close to “that day,” and return home with the biggest, greenest, prettiest tree in the world. He would let it lean against the back of the house for a day or two, “for the branches to drop.” He’d cut off a couple inches of the trunk and affix the stand to it by a nail.

LET’S TRIM THE TREE

When the time came to decorate the tree, it was a family affair. First, the top came off, to be decorated by us small ones and then placed atop the piano. Meanwhile, the big tree would be trimmed and wound in electric lights. Next come the small ornaments placed at the top, with larger ones placed on toward the bottom.

Then Mom would unwrap her special ornaments – old, dull pieces of thin glass, plumed birds, and tiny snowflakes; mom’s memories… a bit from her mother; an aunt or uncle; one from her first tree as a married woman; one from a friend during the war; and so on.

Lastly, the tinsel was added; long strips of thin metal-like stuff to be draped over the ends of branches and lower limbs. Never mind it got tangled up in a big ball; pop it in your mouth and enjoy the weird taste next to your teeth. It didn’t matter an older sister came behind and rearranged the clumps you left on the branches. When the job was done, the tree was the world’s most beautiful.

The decorated tree in the living room was the signal Christmas was near. Other signs were a kitchen full of baked things, holiday music on the radio, and mysterious evening trips Mom and Dad made “to see a man about a dog.”

Finally, it’s the night before Christmas. We youngsters are tucked in our beds; the older ones get to stay up for Midnight Mass. Those put to bed have no visions of sugarplums; there’s too much excitement. We scurry from bed to bed, bedroom-to-bedroom… someone calls up the stairs, “Better get to sleep or Santa won’t come!”

The years Grandma Leib lived with us, she’d guard the stairs door to thwart our childish attempts to catch Santa in the act.

Eventually, sleep takes over; long waking hours are transformed to swiftly passing ticks of an unheard clock and we hear Dad call up the stairs, “Get up, Santa’s been here!” (One year, Santa even brought baby brother Stephen Christian Bayer.)

There, below the tree, along the walls, behind chairs and in front of the fireplace… piled, bunched, scattered, and artfully composed… were the gifts: games, clothes, bikes, microscopes, dolls, trains, perfume, boots, and books (gifts mostly new, some repainted just like new, all given with love) – ready to be passed out to all in the family.

FIRST, THERE’S CHURCH

But time, the children’s great cross to bear, marches inexorably through the Christmas tradition. First, we went to 9:15 Mass. Oh, how Father Laval Landry’s sermon seemed so long, the songs never ended, Communion never came; and, then, magically, we were heading for the doors and on to home!

Home to presents – but time’s tradition is again served. To pass out so many presents, Dad needs a good breakfast and we all must eat. Mother makes homemade waffles, fries pounds of bacon and dozens of eggs, toasts toast until the room smokes; and the faster we eat, the more Dad dawdles. That man spent more time on Christmas (we thought) eating breakfast than on any other day of the year.

Finally, with a twinkle in his eye, Dad draws the breakfast ritual to a close. He sits in his large chair near the tree, stretches his arms wide, scratches his ankle, and reaches for his morning newspaper.

A cry, the likes never heard since the fall of Jericho, erupts from big and small throats alike, causing him to drop the paper and, with his happiest grin, reach for the presents.

Swiftly and sure-handedly (who knows how he knew where to reach), he passes gifts to everyone. Each person has something to open. It is only for a split second (there’s that agonizing time again) that he hesitated before calling out a name on a present… Christine, Marge, Greg, John, Francis, Rosie, Paul, Karl, Babette, Jeanne, Steve, Liz, Richard, Mom, Grandma, Grandpa, and there’s even one for Dad.

Ah, memories… those kids around that tree have all grown; Grandma and Grandpa, Mom and Dad are gone. Our family of 13 siblings has grown to more than 250 and the presents are scattered under Bayer Family Christmas trees from Michigan to Texas, California to St. Louis.

It takes the passage of time and children of our own to appreciate this happy day as it becomes a cherished memory for all of us… and who among any of us wouldn’t wish for a little of that time again.

 God Bless you all!

Have a very Merry Christmas!

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